Plek blog

Team spirit and working from home: our experiences at Plek

For all organisations where (almost) everyone now works from home, the next big task is: how do you keep the team spirit high and the company culture alive, while no longer physically working together? At Plek, too, we thought about this carefully.

Of course, we were also surprised by the "corona crisis". We had just planned a trial  work-from-home day when we were caught up with the developments. The transition to working from home went pretty smoothly. All our systems are in the cloud, so we can access them from anywhere, including the Plek communications platform itself, which of course we ourselves make full use of. Moreover, some of us were already working from home regularly and doing daily standups. But having everyone working from home from one moment to the next was a different matter. What are our experiences so far?

Camera: switched on!

From day one, we switched to video conferencing - with the camera always on (we use Google Hangouts Meet). Being able to see each other is essential for personal connection, eye contact and picking up body language. Incidentally, we do find that video conferencing is more tiring than live meetings. Perhaps because everyone is always in full view and therefore you never think you can slack off. That could also be the reason why video conferencing seems more effective!

Structure meetings well

We all know it by now: videoconferencing works fine with 4-5 people, but with more people attending it quickly becomes one-sided communication if you're not careful. So think carefully in advance about the form and the tools you will use. We recently had a very good brainstorm in the online tool Miro.

Leading the conversation is also important. We have meetings twice a week with all 30 Plek colleagues. It soon became apparent that there were far fewer questions online than before, compared than when we did the meetings in real life. That is why we now have two different meetings every week: one that we, as management, prepare and of which we share a report on Plek afterwards, so that everyone can also ask questions there; and the other for which we invite colleagues to contribute in advance. That could be with a question, something everyone needs to know, or a success story. They then get their turn one at a time, and that works much better. Experiment and ask your employees for feedback.

Share successes and compliments

We always had a culture of sharing a lot about our work, in news channels and team, project and theme groups on our own Plek. Now that has only been increased. And to be honest,  the interaction on it has become even greater than before. Via the chat, we compliment each other when things are going well and sympathize with each other when times are tough. The Giphy function and emoji's in Plek are very important for this.

The chat almost exploded when the deal with the Amsterdam University Medical Center came through recently. We will now roll out Plek there for all 17,000 employees, and at this time especially when they are doing such important work. The pride was felt and shared by the entire team.

Make time for personal conversations

In the absence of the shared lunch and chat in between, it is important to actively make time for personal conversations. We have increased the frequency of 1-on-1 conversations by managers with individual team members to once a week. We always ask about moods, any problems with working from home and concerns people may have. But we also deliberately start every day start and many other meetings with small talk.


Of course, we also have online team drinks with crazy themes, where everyone dresses up or shows up with their pets. It works to keep the mood going. We also post pictures of our home offices in the first week and now ask everyone to share the benefits of working from home. For myself, for example, these include the guitar improvisations from behind my teenage son's bedroom door, which accompany my work. Or as in the case of one of our colleagues, the beautiful view from her houseboat! We also urge colleagues to go out for an hour of fresh air during the day and are now preparing an online pub quiz. For sick people we make a compilation of selfie videos, for birthdays one of simultaneous video singing. This new situation makes resourceful.

Of course, we have a young, innovative and digitally-savvy team. That's our business. But if you encourage people to come up with their own initiatives, are open to experiments and always evaluate them together quickly, then any organisation can survive this working from home time with the team spirit intact.

Good luck!

Rik from Plek

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